Bus Ride Bigotry: What Really Happened to Ari Gold?
BY Jeremy Kinser
July 13 2011 6:25 PM ET
When musician Sir Ari Gold and his boyfriend Timothy Nelson boarded a Shortline bus at New York City’s Port Authority terminal to visit his family in the Catskills last Sunday, he couldn’t have foreseen that the couple would soon be at the center of a possible civil rights violation.
The two men who were seated next to one another near the front of the bus, holding hands and listening to music on a shared iPod, soon caught the attention of the allegedly homophobic driver. The man demanded that the couple move to the back of the bus. And when Gold refused, the driver pulled over and called police.
Fortunately another passenger offered to be a witness for Gold and Nelson, and The Advocate has exclusively corroborated the men’s story with Florence Mattersdorfer of Livingston Manner, NY. Mattersdorfer says she and her husband have been longtime advocates of LGBT equality, and so she was disturbed by the way Gold and Nelson were treated. She says it was completely without provocation.
"It was certainly unprovoked in my opinion and it was [due to the driver's] personal bias," Mattersdorfer says. "He was offended by them. And I don’t believe that had it been a man and a woman he would have made an issue out of it because they were not doing anything at all that was inappropriate in my opinion."
Mattersdorfer does reveal that, besides holding hands and listening to music, Gold had his leg wrapped over Nelson's, which Gold later confirmed. A representative from Shortline sent a response to The Village Voice's Michael Musto, who broke the story, saying the company does not condone the actions of the driver and they plan to investigate. Gold shares with The Advocate his account of the event last Sunday and the outcome he hopes to achieve.
The Advocate: So you two were just sitting on the bus listening to music and holding hands when the driver noticed you and ordered you to a seat in the back?
Ari Gold: Yes. My boyfriend quickly pulled away from me because he got scared. I took his hand back and said no, we’re not going to move to the back of the bus. The driver said he was going to have us kicked off the bus and was going to call the state troopers.
Is it possible that you were distracting the driver in some other way, maybe your music was too loud?
No, we were listening to music on headphones and there were witnesses around. We were not disturbing anyone else. It was very, very clear to everyone else including the state trooper that the driver just had a problem with two men sitting arm in arm.
Where were you seated in relation to the driver?
We were in the very front row seat by the side of the driver. The driver had no reason to even be looking at us. We were not behind him disturbing him; we weren’t even in his mirror sight.
Then how did he see you?
All he had to do was turn his head and look at us. He was the second driver. He came on to the bus [when] they switched drivers. When he came on the bus my boyfriend and I were already sitting together, so he could have seen us when he came on.
What did you say to the driver when he told you to move to the back of the bus?
He said if you want to sit like that you can sit in the back. We told him we didn't want to. He said if we want to sit like that he'd call the state troopers and have us kicked off the bus.
How long was the bus stopped while waiting for the police to arrive?
About 15 minutes.
What was the response from the other passengers?
No one knew why the bus was delayed. One girl behind us may have known because I think she saw everything going on. She just looked at us and said, “Don’t worry. You didn’t do anything wrong.” But nobody else knew anything. I asked my boyfriend if I should stand up and say something. Before we pulled over the bus driver was talking on the phone angry about this while he was driving a bus full of people.